This 12 – night, 13 – day Morocco itinerary includes not only the Imperial cities but also Tangiers that is not included in many itineraries. Visit cities, villages and the desert for an exciting visit to Morocco.
Upon arrival in Casablanca, you will be met and will have a brief tour of the port city of Casablanca, Morocco’s largest metropolis and industrial hub. Highlights include the old French quarter of Habous, the Hassan II Grand Mosque considered among the largest in the world and the beaches lapped by green blue water. Depart Casablanca along the coastline to Rabat for overnight.
After breakfast, explore Morocco’s political and administrative capital. A clean central beach, an intact and evocative Kasbah and an attractive walled medina that is far less touristy than those in other large cities. Sightseeing includes the Mohammed V. Hassan II Mausoleum and Hassan Tower, the landmark of Rabat and one of the oldest mosques of Morocco. The Kasbah des Oudaya, Rabat’s historic citadel, occupies the site of the original Ribat (fortress-monastery) that gave the city its name.
Afterwards, drive along the Atlantic coast to Tangiers. En route, there is hardly a better place for lunch than the village of Moulay Bousselham. Time allowing, stop at Asilah (a small town from the Roman era) known for its imposing ramparts and Portuguese fortifications which enclose the old town of white and blue washed houses. Continuing your drive along the Atlantic coast to Tangier.
Explore Tangier, an incredibly unique city with many landmarks. It is Morocco’s main gate to Europe and the settling place of many artists from around the world. On a peak of the central hill surrounded by historic cannons, an engraved stone monument displays the speech King Mohammed V gave to the French asking for Moroccan independence in 1947. Visit the Marshan district and its Roman tombs and admire the Moresque interior of St Andrews church. This magnificent church is a tribute to the harmony of Christianity and Islam. Cross the fish market where fresh fish is sold at auction to see the Jewish cemetery dominating the sea front. Head to the American legation, the first American property to ever open outside the United States. Descend onto Petit Socco and have a mint tea at Cafe Tingis, a favorite with the Beat Generation. A 15 – minute drive outside Tangier where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean takes you to Cap Spartel, the legendary cave of Hercules where he rested after he retrieved the “golden apple”.
After breakfast, drive to Chefchaouen. The road winds around the valley as you travel towards the Rif Mountains. En route explore Tetouan, one of the two major ports of Morocco on the Mediterranean Sea, famous for the beautiful patios and palaces of Moresque heritage. Erected on an ancient Roman site, Tetouan was destroyed during the 15th century by the Portuguese. The fall of the kingdom of Granada in southern Spain in 1492 marked the renaissance of Tetouan. More than its architecture, the cuisine, the music, the jewelry and the embroidery speak of their Andalusian origin. Visit the Ethnographical Museum to admire the glory of its Moresque heritage.
Continue to Chefchaouen through the dramatic gorges of Oued Laou connecting the Mediterranean beaches to the world. Upon arrival, explore Chefchaouen quite likely the most charming village in Morocco with its Medina, Bab el Ansar and the famed Ras el Maa (waterfall). A short walk takes you to Rif Sebbanine, the laundry district and its 15th century mosque. Their Kasbah built in the 15th century is worth a detour.
After breakfast, drive to Ouazzane, the holy city for the Moroccan Jewish population who still make pilgrimages to venerate the tomb of several marabouts (Moroccan saints) particularly Moul Anrhaz. This is the local name for Rabbi Amram ben Diwan, an eighteenth-century rabbi who lived in the city and whose burial site is associated with several miracles.
Drive to the ancient Roman city of Volubilis to explore its stunning ruins. Impressive stone arches and columns, some tumbled down and others still standing tall against the vivid blue sky, invite you to take a step back in time. Only about half of the 40-hectare UNESCO site at Volubilis has been excavated. Here, floors of what were once family dwellings are still covered with decorative tile mosaics depicting mythological beings such as Orpheus’s charming animals with his lyre and Hercules performing his legendary 12 labors. That so many of these tiles are still in place and exhibiting their colors after centuries of exposure to the elements is astonishing.
Afterwards, drive to the Imperial city of Meknes, the one – time home of the Moroccan sultanate with its winding narrow streets in the medina and grand buildings. Remnants of three sets of fortifications ingeniously incorporated into the city’s road networks, emphasize its past importance and glory. The king’s tomb sits at the heart of what remains of the original Imperial city flanked by an almighty royal granary and the magnificent Bab el-Mansour.
Continue to Fez for overnight.
Take a step back in time to the Middle Ages when you visit one of the most Imperial, timeless and untouched cities in the world, Fez El Bali (Old Fez). This is the cultural heart of Morocco. Explore some of the 9000 narrow lanes, alleys and souks (open air markets) that make up the labyrinth of the city’s old quarter originally founded in the 8th century AD. The Imperial capital was a renowned center of medieval learning and its heart still remains at the Karaouine, one of the oldest, still functioning universities in the world. In the neighboring building is the Attarine Mederasa (Koranic college), a jewel of Hispano-Moorish architecture built in the 14th century.
Visit Nejjarine Square with its beautiful fountain of elaborate tile work mosaics. The nearby Fondouq (Caravanserai) was converted to a museum of carpentry artifacts. Visit Fez El Jedid (New Fez) built by the Merinide Dynasty in the 13th century. See the Royal Palace, mosques, madrasas (Koranic schools), souks and the city wall. Most notably, Fez El Jedid is home to the mellah (Jewish quarter), which provides an interesting insight into Jewish architecture. The wrought iron decorated windows and splendid carved wood balconies of the old mansions are particularly outstanding. The medieval Medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Return to your hotel for overnight.
After breakfast, depart Fez. Pass through many amazing cities and villages, the first of which is Ifrane, nicknamed “Morocco’s Switzerland”. It is a charming ski town populated by European-style chalets. Continue on to Midelt, which serves as the commercial center of a large agricultural hinterland. It is also one of Morocco’s principal cities for the mining of several minerals. You will have some free time in Midelt before continuing your journey through the dramatic Ziz Gorge to arrive in Erfoud.
After breakfast, a 4×4 vehicle will be waiting for you to continue your adventure by heading towards the dunes of Erg Chebbi, possibly the largest dunes in the Sahara-desert. En route, visit the villages in the surroundings area for a closer contact with the Berber culture. Continue to Rissani and visit one of the best traditional animal markets in the Sahara. Stop at El Khamlia village for lunch. Continue to the African village or “Gnawa village”. Then continue to Erg Chabbi. The dunes of Erg Chebbi are a strikingly strange natural formation. Upon arrival at the camp, you will enjoy a camel ride to witness the sunset from over the desert dunes and be astounded by the peace and calm as well as the changing colors of the landscape.
Drive to Tinghir and Todra Gorges, the highest and the narrowest gorges in Morocco. Situated on the east side of the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, the Todra Gorge is recognized around the world as one of the most spectacular canyons. Here, both the Todra and Dades Rivers have carved out cliff sided canyons on their final 25 mile stretch through the mountains leaving behind a series of reliefs and etches in the rock. Todra is the name of the last 600 meters (just under 2,000 feet) of the canyons. In places this gorge measures just 33 feet across but the cliffs are more than 500 feet tall on either side. The river has since dried up leaving only the imagination to picture the powerful natural forces that once carved this region. The gorge though in a remote area is popular for its hiking paths and a well-maintained dirt road for visitors to share with mules and other pack animals.
After lunch, drive through the Dades Valley with its majestic sand castles and incredible rock formations known as “monkey toes”. The route through Dades Valley is also known as the Road of One Thousand Kasbahs. You’ll catch a spectacular view of a vast valley dotted with small oases and hundreds of ancient fortifications. The sand colored walls of the Kasbah may all start to look the same but each holds a special historical treasure within and offer innumerable opportunities for remarkable photos.
Continue to Skoura, a quiet little village, speckled with palm tree groves. It is surrounded by acres of palm groves which are a paradise of palm and olive trees dotted with Kasbahs and small villages. This is where you find Kasbah Amridil that stands out from the rest. Originally built in the 17th century, it is one of Morocco’s most iconic living museums that has withstood the test of time.
Afterwards, drive to Ouarzazate.
After breakfast, visit Taourir Kasbah, one of the most beautiful Kasbahs in Morocco. After the French left in the 1953, the movie business flourished in Ouarzazate. Visit the film studios where some of the most famous desert landscapes are filmed. You might recognize the sand colored houses of this impressive Ksar (Arabic for “fortified city”) when you see the spectacular fortress of Ait Ben Haddou, the iconic landscape, immortalized in such films as Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and Alexander. Ait Ben Haddou is a massive fortification made up of six Kasbahs all protected by UNESCO. You can spend time in its maze of winding streets until reaching a fortified granary at the top which provides an amazing view of the valley.
Leave Ait Ben Haddou, crossing the High Atlas Mountains via the magnificent Tiz In Tichka pass to Marrakech, your home for the next three nights.
Unearth the secrets of Marrakesh beginning in the medina which is the walled section of town and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This thousand-year-old city was long a political, economic and cultural center. Marvel at its architectural jewels, including the soaring Koutoubia minaret. Continue to the Bahia Palace, an exemplary of privileged life in the 19th century. Your next stop is the Tiskiwin Museum, founded by a Dutch anthropologist. The museum houses an impressive collection of North African arts and crafts organized into geographically themed exhibits with each room focusing on artifacts from different towns and regions along the ancient trade route from Marrakech to Timbuktu. Visit Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech’s main square. You will find orange juice stalls and vendors, along with fire eaters, mime artists, snake charmers and street musicians performing at every turn. Explore the city’s fabled, labyrinthine souks and their bustling alleyways brimming with all manner of wares.
Day is at leisure.
After breakfast, you will be transferred to Casablanca International Airport for your flight home.